AUGUST … awesome achievements by so many!
2nd August 2021: I enjoyed a tour of Market Drayton, which is certainly on the global map as the UK and Ireland headquarters of diary giant Müller.
Of course, Market Drayton has so much else to offer. One of Shropshire’s premier agricultural market towns, it has sadly struggled in recent years. However, some excellent businesses are helping to revive the town’s fortunes.
I met Julia Roberts who promotes the annual Ginger and Spice Festival. This year’s event is on Saturday September 25th in and around Market Drayton. The festival explores the town’s culinary heritage and social history via a diverse mix of events.
I visited thriving Joules Brewery, Billington’s Gingerbread – the town has a long association with the spicy confectionary – and Style Optique, a niche optician run by Eva and Sam Davé. They produce individually-styled glasses for both men and women, with a number of their customers coming from London. I also visited Sherwood Wholefoods and Jones’s Coffee House.
My visit reinforced the view that I have always held, that Market Drayton has fantastic tourism potential with its wonderful period architecture, rich history, the Shropshire Union Canal and, of course, the market.
I talked at length about how I feel there is a natural synergy between Müller and Market Drayton – the healthy food industry allied to the healthy environment of a quintessentially English rural market town. I’m in the process of arranging talks with Müller to see if there is any way this idea can be developed.
2nd August 2012: I visited The Shrewsbury Ark to hear about some exciting plans for its future from manager Wendy Faulkner.
The charity, which does great work providing a support network for homeless people, is moving into a new base at the former Rock and Fountain pub in Castle Foregate. Work has been undertaken in recent months to convert the premises.
Shrewsbury Ark sprang from the Shrewsbury Christian Centre Association, which was founded nearly 50 years ago to offer aid to those in need.
The first Day Centre was first opened by volunteers on the site of Old St Chad’s Church. In 1973 the Association was offered the use of a small flat in the town which allowed its work to expand. Briefly, in 1975, the Association was able to use the basement of a private house to give overnight accommodation to two or three homeless men.
From the 1990s the charity ran a night shelter for homeless men close to the centre of the town – first in the Old School House beside the Welsh Bridge, and later at 70 Castle Foregate where there was space for up to 12 residents – with vacancies filled almost immediately.
Unfortunately, Government funding was withdrawn in 2006 and the shelter had to be closed.
After that, the charity concentrated on providing a Drop-in Day Centre for homeless and vulnerable people, a project greatly supported by Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council.
The charity is run by a small group of volunteer trustees on Christian principles. It is funded by a wide range of individuals, from many local churches and occasionally from trust funds.
Facilities include a bathroom, laundry, computer, postal address, landline, and recharging points while practical support includes hot meals, emergency food parcels, clothing, toiletries and sleeping bags.
Shrewsbury Ark organises activities such as football, tending an allotment, sculpting, art, beekeeping and offers spiritual wellbeing. In-house partner services include medical check-ups, housing advice, counselling, mental health support and hairdressing. It can also refer visitors to partner agencies and can help with form filling, work experience and support into accommodation.
The Ark is a fantastic charity and I was so inspired by my visit that I contacted Joanna Morris, who handles commercial projects at one Shropshire’s oldest and finest independent family businesses, Morris & Company in Shrewsbury.
Joanna kindly organised the donation of excellent kitchen fittings to the charity including cupboards, sink and taps.
I’m frequently heartened by how many kind-hearted and generous people we have in Shropshire and, as High Sheriff, I have the privilege of meeting quite a few of them.
3rd August 2021: I met Superintendent Jim Baker at Malinsgate police station in Telford today.
We discussed several topics. One was The Holly Project, a free support service for survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
An independent drop-in service run by survivors of CSE, it offers a safe place for individuals and their families to get support and advice from people who understand at first hand the trauma and lasting impact of CSE.
The Holly Project runs groups for survivors and victims as well as families and parents. The service, which is doing great work, is based in Tan Bank, Wellington. Email the holly workers direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01952 947831 for more information.
We also talked about the ongoing scourge of County Lines drug dealing and the criminal gangs behind it.
Supt Baker explained that Telford & Wrekin was different to Shropshire.
County Lines work more so in Shropshire, particularly with the gangs coming down from Liverpool and, to a lesser extent, from the West Midlands.
Within Telford there are eight gangs of which seven are Asian and one Polish, Jim told me.
There are probably two or three County Lines within Telford but 17 known County Lines in Shropshire.
There have been three homicides in the area recently, details of which Jim outlined.
In the spirit of fostering diversity, a number of police officers from Telford attended the fourth annual Windrush Day on June 22 at the National Maritime Museum in London. It’s been 73 years since Caribbean migrants on board the SS Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks. Windrush Day is an opportunity to celebrate the Windrush generation, and acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of British Caribbean communities. It is wonderful to see officers from Telford joining this celebration.
Police staff retention and training is generally good. However, Jim explained that a number of officers do not particularly appreciate the requirement for a degree, particularly ex-service people who come into the Force later in life. Jim made the point that it is difficult to do a full-time job, particularly with a night rota, and to study as well.
Jim Baker is retiring, aged 51, on September 16, in line with the police’s 30-year service rule. I’m sure we all wish him well.
4th August 2021: I held my quarterly meeting with Shropshire Council Chief Executive Andy Begley this afternoon, during which we discussed a range of topics concerning the county.
5th August 2021: I met Angela Channon JP, Chairman of Telford Magistrates She kindly showed me around the courts, together with Charles Nunley JP and Nicola Hughes.
There are 84 magistrates within the rota and eight courts at Telford, primarily covering adult and family matters.
The main issues relate to drugs, drink, theft, traffic offences and private prosecutions.
All the magistrates have a great sense of duty and want to make a difference. It is a challenging role and I thank them for their time, dedication and commitment.
Whilst inevitably some defendants end up in prison, there is great emphasis on trying to help people in the long term.
County Lines came up again as a growing problem in our society, with drug overlords – most of whom are not local – coercing vulnerable individuals, many of whom are children, into the network.
A number of those exploited are from broken homes, or have been subjected to domestic/sexual abuse. Many see being a part of the County Lines network as both ‘cool’ and the ‘family’ they do not have at home. When they realise they are trapped, it is often too late. A number of the young people who come before the court are children of parents with criminal pasts.
It is a vicious circle we need to break and education has a huge role to play. I shall continue to champion the work of all those – including our magistrates – who are trying to break that vicious circle and change lives for the better.
5th August 2021: Ludlow is Shropshire’s jewel. It combines architectural beauty with open wide spaces, history and a vibrant community. As such, it has a vital role to play in the county’s tourism drive as the local economy looks to bounce back from the pandemic ‘crash’.
I toured the town with Erica Garner, a trustee of community group Hands Together Ludlow, who introduced me to Mayor Robin Pote.
We met in the attractive café/restaurant of Ludlow Assembly Rooms, which is one of the town’s focal points for what is a very lively community
Ludlow’s marketing is very slick. Here is a link https://www.theludlowguide.co.uk/ to a really compelling video which shows just what an enormous amount Ludlow has to offer both tourists and the locality.
It has always been famed for its restaurants, tea shops, wonderful, open streets and Ludlow Food Festival. It has a market on six days a week run by Tony Caton, Market Officer of Ludlow Town Council. There are more than 40 stalls and each day has a different theme. In normal times the market generates around £160,000 a year for the council. Naturally, during lockdowns this dried up, but the markets now look to be absolutely flourishing.
5th August 2021: Urgent action is needed by all of us to halt the catastrophic effects of climate change. For too long it has been ignored because it is seen as someone else’s problem, be that future generations, poorer parts of the world or uninhabited wilds like the arctic poles.
Recent disasters such as the fires in California, Australia and Greece and the floods in Germany have shown this is now a First World problem, on our own doorstep. Shropshire has its fair share of flooding and, two years ago, we had a catastrophic flood at my home when there was nearly six inches of rain overnight.
We need urgent action from world leaders. But we can all play our part. I met Jane Cullen, chair of South Shropshire Climate Action in Ludlow. The group has published its action plan to make the Ludlow area carbon neutral by 2030. It is an ambitious target but one we must work towards individually and collectively. The landmark report from the United Nations’ IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) pulled no punches. It said our continued dependence on fossil fuels is warming the world at a pace unprecedented in the past 2,000 years. The result is record droughts, wildfires and floods that are devastating communities.
The report makes it abundantly clear that the future of the planet depends on the choices we now make.
This report is hugely significant – it was compiled by more than 200 scientists over several years and approved by 195 governments. It comes three months before a major global summit hosted by the UK in Glasgow, the 26th annual Conference of the Parties – known as CoP26.
This is a chance for governments to make major pledges to change course and it must be seized.
There is now a real danger that that collectively we do not do enough to avert the impending crisis. The real difficulty will be getting individuals to buy into it and change their lifestyles. The consumer lifestyle that we all lead is no longer sustainable.
This really is something where each one of us can make difference.
5th August 2021: Bright Star is truly inspirational. Based in Shifnal, it is a nationally award-winning organisation focusing on supporting some of the most vulnerable – and in many ways hard to reach – people across the county.
Bright Star started as a boxing club, but is now so much more. The organisation uses boxing, mentoring and education to improve mental health and self-esteem for some of the most vulnerable groups, including veterans and young people at risk of criminal exploitation. The superb team also supports people into employment by helping them gain essential qualifications.
Deservedly, Bright Star – led by the dynamic Joe Lockley – has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
My wife Clare and I attended an evening to celebrate this achievement, held at Casey’s, Cordingley Hall, Donnington.
Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner presented Bright Star with its Queen’s Award Crystal.
Some of those whose lives have been transformed by Bright Star and its programmes shared their stories, speaking quite movingly at times. These are quite remarkable stories and the people themselves true examples of how lives can be turned around.
There was the chance to meet some of Bright Star’s incredible volunteers and some of the partners who support their work, including Energize, local schools and local charitable organisations.
A fantastic evening.
6th August 2021: I attended the official opening of the new Madeley Wood Outdoor Adventure attraction, part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town museum. The opening ceremony was performed by popular children’s television presenter Andy Day, known to millions of youngsters for his appearances on BBC’s CBeebies channel.
9th August 2021: I had a meeting with David Sidaway, Telford & Wrekin Council Chief Executive, at Addenbrooke House, the council’s administrative headquarters. We discussed a variety of matters connected with the area.
12th August 2021: Clare and I attended an informal garden party to say thank you to trustees and staff of Shropshire’s RCC (Rural Communities Charity) for their hard work during the past 18 months in the face of unprecedented challenges. The RCC has been very active over the lockdown period with up to 140 volunteers working for it.
The evening was hosted by chairman Hugh Strickland, at his home near Whitchurch.
The charity offers a range of help and support to make life better for people and communities facing challenges. The RCC helps people to stay active, keep connected and maintain their health and independence. It gives grants to those in need and offers advice and support.
14th August 2021: Community spirit has never been more important than now, particularly after the devastation of the COVID pandemic, leaving so many isolated.
So I was delighted to officially re-open Sambrook Village Hall, which has been completely refurbished. This was thanks to a great deal of hard work by the village under the leadership of Neil Robson, the Village Hall Committee Chairman. They raised funds from numerous sources including the COVID recovery scheme. They also run a lottery.
A village hall is a marvellous way to bring many different strands of a community together, whether young or old – and it is available to everybody.
16th August 2021: I was delighted to attend a celebration of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise to Landau Ltd, held at the Albright Hussey Manor Hotel, near Shrewsbury. It is deserved recognition for the Wellington-based national charity, which works with parents, carers, local services, clinical professionals, schools, colleges and employers to help individuals overcome personal challenges and disabilities to find secure jobs. Landau received this top accolade for promoting opportunity, through social mobility, for its impressive range of employment and training programmes and for helping thousands of people to turn their lives around. Superb!
19th August 2021: I met Yvonne Brunger (Scout name, Boson) who runs the Edgmond Scout group with two of her scouts, Jess and Izzy. They are very keen to help Shrewsbury Ark (see entry for August 2) in any way they can, whether making sleeping bags, working on the new building at the Rock and Fountain or collecting food.
I was delighted to contact Ark manager Wendy Faulkner on their behalf. Bringing people together, who can help one another, is an important role of the High Sheriff and it is good to be able to put it into practice.
28th August 2021: I had the pleasure of attending Clee Hill Summer Fair, which was a hugely enjoyable occasion. Guests included Town Crier Peder Nielsen, Ludlow and Clee’s Shropshire Councillor Vivienne Parry and me. I must praise Heather James and Ian Walker for organising the event. I was also hugely impressed by the community spirit of residents of Three Crosses assisted living scheme which was involved in the event.